2013 was a very interesting year for me. It was a year of huge growth and accomplishment, but also of immense sadness and loss. Mostly I think it was a year of transition.
January began with me finished with breast cancer surgeries and starting an oral chemo regimen that was supposed to help reduce my fairly high chance of cancer recurrence. It was a time of fear of the unknown and doing anything to safeguard against cancer seemed reasonable and desirable. Unfortunately, my body did not tolerate the meds and I became one very sick puppy. So sick that dying of cancer seemed like the more desirable route and I stopped taking those drugs. Which actually turned out to be a good thing because it totally changed my mindset about the meaning of health.
February found me making my bucket list, convinced that going off the chemo would somehow invite cancer back into my body. The expression ‘to live like you are dying’ became very real to me and it gave me the courage to make changes in my life. One being the strength to step away from a friend whose arrogance and thinly veiled elitism and heterosexism, constant whining (although she was the most privileged person I know) and boundary violations had worn me raw. I never, ever end relationships - always thinking that there’s a way to make adjustments - but I finally said I couldn't do it anymore. It was a huge step for me in gaining back some power, something I’m told is a big step for people who have experienced rape.
March seemingly marked the end to my journey to overcome PTSD. I still cannot really describe this except to say that the combination of rebuilding my physical strength after cancer, and finding my voice to say “enough” to a friend, seemed to empower me in a way that I had not felt since the day of losing all of my power. I literally felt like I was shedding huge emotional balls and chains.
In April I went to New Orleans (a bucket list destination), saw a psychic who told me I should teach others about surviving and that I had a long life line. I began to really think about what my life (however long it was going to be) should be about now. And I began to build back my physical strength.
During May I was conquering all sorts of things - the last of the high peaks in the Adirondacks, sex without breasts, playing piano, my daughters home for the summer . . . I was beginning to feel positively giddy with my new emotional and physical health.
In June I had my first serious PTSD trigger and was able to say “fuck off” and it worked! For the first time I was beginning to sense that I really had conquered it.
July and August - rest and relaxation.
In September I lost yet another close friend to cancer.
During October I watched my secretary watch her daughter die of cancer.
November yet another friend, the man who gave us our children, died of cancer. Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer? Thanksgiving became even more meaningful to be with the people I love.
So I am now in December trying to figure out where to go from here. I used to spend an awful lot of emotional time controlling my PTSD, trying to be “normal”, and a lot of time doing physical things to control my always rising anxiety. Now I have become a slug, staying in bed in the morning and just thinking about what I should be doing next. Nothing brilliant has come to mind.
Cancer does something to you. Not unlike PTSD, it likes to remind you that it is always lurking, waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce. And having lost so many loved people in my life to cancer, I am very tuned in to the importance of time and not wasting time and especially growing and nurturing the relationships in my life.
So 2013 marks a year when I became free of PTSD (knocking on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder, and whatever else I need to do to not curse this.) I loved myself enough to end a seriously unhealthy (for me) friendship, I ended almost all cancer treatments and got myself back to good physical condition (although I have been quite the slug lately.) It was a year of gaining great strength but also great sadness. I lost three people I cared about but was able to travel and say goodbye to a most beloved friend. Lots of sadness, but no regrets. A bittersweet year.
I feel now like I am starting 2014 with a totally blank page and I have no idea what I want to write on it . . .
. . . yet.